(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a 2024 presidential campaign in the coming months, will travel overseas this week on an international trade mission.
DeSantis will lead a Florida delegation to Israel, Japan, South Korea and the U.K. to meet with government and business leaders.
The trip is seen by some allies as an effort to expand his foreign policy chops ahead of a likely presidential campaign launch by this summer.
The governor’s office said in a news release on Thursday that the trip would focus on building upon Florida’s current economic relationships with each country.
In Japan, DeSantis will meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. In South Korea, the governor will meet with the Gyeonggi Province governor, Kim Dong-yeon, and Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
While in Israel, DeSantis will deliver the keynote address at an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding, on Thursday. He’ll also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Netanyahu said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
And in the U.K., DeSantis will meet with Foreign Minister James Cleverly.
He will be joined on the trip by his wife, Casey, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd and Florida Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella.
John Thomas, a GOP political strategist and the founder of the pro-DeSantis super PAC Ron to the Rescue, told ABC News that he believes the travel will burnish DeSantis’ foreign policy bona fides.
“[DeSantis] does have a biographical background in foreign policy as a naval officer, but there is no replacement for shaking hands, having the photo-op, being on the ground and being able to name drop that you have relationships with certain world leaders,” Thomas said.
“Any major candidate for the Oval Office needs to check that [foreign policy] box and improve their credentials so that they have credibility when they’re delivering their eventual foreign policy message on the campaign trail and on the debate stage, and this is the first step for Gov. DeSantis to do just that,” Thomas said.
DeSantis, a popular if controversial leader in the GOP, has drawn scrutiny for some of his recent remarks about international issues.
His travel abroad will come just over a month after he initially called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “territorial dispute” and said the war was not of national interest for the United States.
Those comments received backlash from other leading members of the GOP.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted a veiled rebuke: “To those who believe that Russia’s unprovoked and barbaric invasion of Ukraine is not a priority for the United States – you are missing a lot.”
And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also criticized the governor of his state, saying in a radio interview, “Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor.”
DeSantis later said that his words were “mischaracterized” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal.”
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